This is not your typical meditation book. No Sanskrit terms, no gurus, no mystique. Less a set of instructions, more a challenge to the reader to work on themselves within the framework the author sets out.
Simon Cole has formulated a meditation path for a modern age, grounded in Western therapeutic tradition. He draws on eminent thinkers in the field of therapy and human relations - Buber, Rogers and Gendlin. He introduces into meditation 'felt-sense' and 'kindly attention' and invites the reader to sit alongside themselves and truly discover the person they are.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Stillness in Mind
Changemaker Books (John Hunt) 2015, 118 pp., £9.99, p/b.
This is a practical book on mindfulness and meditation with
a difference. It is grounded within the Western therapeutic
tradition, and especially influenced by the approaches of
Martin Buber, Carl Rogers and Eugene Gendlin. It sets out
what he calls a Clear Space Meditation Path in two parts,
as well as the applications of mindfulness to everyday life
such as eating and breathing. Readers are encouraged to
cultivate empathy and the process of being with whatever is
happening in the body, thoughts or emotions. There are many
individual meditations threaded into the narrative. Towards
the end, there is an interesting account of three consecutive
meditation sittings, the contents of which would-be meditators
will certainly recognise. It is nice to think, as the author
does, of meditation as company along the way and an aid to
harmonising our inner and outer worlds. Ultimately, however,
this practice should benefit others as well as oneself, which
is why kindness and benevolence are central. Meditators of all
levels of experience will benefit from engaging with this book.
~ Network Review , Spring 2015 No 117
In 1978 I bought a copy of Lawrence LeShan’s now-classic How to Mediate (Sphere, 1978), from which I gained knowledge and understanding about meditation, but not as much as I had wished about the how-to-do-it. “Stillness in Mind” redresses that balance with detailed instructions to guide the novice … it is discursive about what is going on in and around the experience of mindfulness; and it is a guide for personal development in the practice of meditation. The book is … like an experienced companion able to help the reader to meet the challenges of the journey.
The text is easy to read, using everyday language, and it explains difficult concepts well. Yet, like some of the anecdotes it includes, the text is infused with hidden depths that reveal themselves only on subsequent readings. To me, this shows that the writer … inhabits the material. The tone is respectful, yet light.
The author is also a counsellor / therapist, and is able to make strong connections between mindfulness and some aspects of humanistic psychotherapy, considering such concepts as ‘felt-sense’ (Eugene Gendlin), ‘empathic understanding’ (Carl Rogers) and ‘I-thou’ (Martin Buber). Each concept is carefully explained in lay terms …That important parts of the text are based on ideas from these three people would have been enough to excite my interest.
A central chapter entitled ‘Being Ourselves and Visiting Our Pain’ works through a list of difficult feelings and identifies how meditation through mindfulness can help us. Starting with ‘attachment’ as the root process, the chapter goes on to consider disappointment, sadness, regret, remorse, guilt, jealousy, anger, anxiety and stress. The chapter concludes with some thoughts about meditation and pain. I should have liked this chapter, lengthy though it is, to have been even longer.
The writer draws on some real case-material (an engaging format familiar to anyone who reads books about counselling). These sections are excellent for really understanding how to make meditation work, by breathing life and colour into the practice. The text also proposes and works through in detail several focused meditations. Counselling clients and their therapists could make much use of this book.
The book is aware of the relevance of Buddhism to the subject of mindfulness and meditation, although it is scrupulous in avoiding both Buddhist ideology and Buddhist terminology, which have the potential to be dauntingly off-putting. There may be many paths leading towards the practice of meditation. The path of mindfulness involves training one’s mind to watch one’s mind.
For a little while I was uncertain about the difference between ‘being still’ and ‘waiting’. However, I came to realise that the idea of, say, waiting (expectantly) for a bus, is very different from the Quaker practice of waiting, with which, in this context, I am most familiar, and which may be much more comparable with the author’s concept of ‘clear space’ … many universalist Quakers would feel entirely at home and receive positive encouragement from the text.
In 1978 I bought a copy of Lawrence LeShan’s now-classic How to Mediate (Sphere, 1978), from which I gained knowledge and understanding about meditation, but not as much as I had wished about the how-to-do-it. Simon Cole’s book redresses that balance with detailed instructions to guide the novice… and it is a guide for personal development in the practice of meditation… The book is not a drover, intent on directing the reader along a designated path to a specific destination. Instead, it is more like an experienced companion able to help the reader to meet the challenges of the journey… he inhabits the material. The tone is respectful yet light.
The writer draws on some real case-material… excellent for really understanding how to make meditation work, by breathing life and colour into the practice… I would strongly recommend Stillness in Mind over How to Meditate… and somewhat oddly perhaps, many universalist Quakers would feel entirely at home and receive positive encouragement from the text.
~ Peter Hughes, Durham & Sunderland Universities
There is so much talk and writing about mindfulness these days. It’s refreshing to encounter Simon Cole’s book, Stillness in Mind, which offers a fairly unique take on mindfulness. His approach is very down-to-earth and practical, having been honed for more than 30 years as a counselor and, more recently, in workshops and individual therapy work at his retreat center in the south of France. Essentially, he has created a guidebook about how to develop mindfulness and how to go onto to establish a mindfulness based meditation practice, if one decides they want to move on with it after a period of initial exploration. He does this without any of, what some might consider, the “mumbo-jumbo” of Buddhism. In fact, he comes right out and says that he is not a Buddhist, which is not to say that he has anything against Buddhism. It’s just no his personal path. This is in contrast to most mindfulness authors who seem to be strongly allied with the Buddhist tradition. Rather, both as a therapist and as a meditator, his primary inspirations have been Martin Buber, Carl Rogers, and Eugene Gendlin. I found it refreshing that he had to go the extra mile to really bring it down to an everyday sort of experience and conversation. One thing that stands out for me about his approach is that he recommends a period of reflection after meditation, a time to integrate the experience and any useful learnings, time to digest it both emotionally and cognitively. Often during meditation, there are insights that one has and if you take time to sit with those insights, which may be about personal issues or relationship issues, or even ideas for new projects, these can disappear like smoke without some period of acknowledgement and reflection, even though they arose during a period of empty-minded, non-reflective, nonjudgmental, non-evaluative meditation. I’m happy to recommend this book to anyone who is interested in exploring mindfulness. ~ Prof. David Van Nuys, Sonoma State University, California
Simon Cole is a counsellor, therapist and meditation teacher... with deep understanding of his subject.
He takes you on a journey to explain clearly the various levels of meditation and how it can heal the stressed and busy mind to move you into a much greater self-understanding... finding that wonderfully peaceful and joyful "clear space" within.
A 'must read' for all that are interested in meditation." ~ Stafford Whiteaker, Good Retreat Guide 2014
I really enjoyed reading 'Stillness in Mind'... refreshing to read about mindfulness and meditation from a Person-Centred/Counselling perspective. I found the descriptions and meditations... accessible and informative.
I would highly recommend the book to both introductory and more advanced mindfulness practitioners.
I found the idea of linking breathing meditations with different mind states useful... your description of self-actualisation... clearer than other ideas about development I have come across in meditation and psychotherapy.
The story of the Buddha listening to the wind was thought-provoking. ~ Simon Carver, Accredited Psychotherapist